Australia build massive lead

Australia build massive lead

Smith surpasses Bradman's mark as hosts dominate listless Indian bowlers

Australia build massive lead

Once again the Indian attack in the second innings was more penetrative at least in the first half of it while for the first time in this series, their tail put up something substantial on the board but Australia continued to hold sway over the fourth and final Test.

At close of an extended fourth day, Australia had established an overall lead of 348 after reaching 251 for six in their second innings, having bowled India out for 475 some 30 minutes before tea here at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

It remains to be seen if Australia would declare their innings first up on the final morning on Saturday. Steven Smith, who copped some criticism for not declaring early enough to bowl India out in the drawn MCG Test, had already said that if a similar situation were to arrive here he would be more aggressive.    

Smith’s purple patch continued as the right-hander notched up a brisk half-century (72, 70b, 8x4, 1x6) to become the highest run-getter with 770 runs in an India-Australia series, surpassing Sir Don Bradman’s record of 715 runs in 1947-48.

India appeared to have found a way to crack open the Test by dismissing David Warner and Shane Watson early in their innings. But an 80-run stand between Chris Rogers, who brought up his sixth consecutive fifty (56, 77b, 7x4) of the series, and Smith not only denied India further success but their scoring rate began to hurt them.

What hit India even harder was the 86-run association off just 52 balls for the sixth wicket which was dominated by Joe Burns. The right-hander, who had scored his maiden Test half-century in the first innings, looked a bit edgy at the start but exploded without as much of a sign.

The Queensland batsman punished all comers to clobber 66 off a mere 39 balls with the help of eight fours and three sixes that completely dashed India’s faint hopes of running through Australia’s innings.

He was particularly severe against Umesh Yadav whom the batsman carted for four successive fours in one over. The pacer also returned a dubious distinction of bowling three most expensive overs in a Test match, leaking a whopping 45 runs off them.

Ashwin, handed the new ball, bowled attacking lines. He exploited the rough well and the hardness of the ball helped him extract a lot of bounce off the surface. While he went for a few, his returns of four for 105 showed that his approach was right.

His four-wicket haul capped off a productive day for the off-spinner who earlier had come up with a fifty. In the process, he became the ninth Indian player to have completed 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests.

What neutralised his efforts was the performance from the other end. India just couldn’t maintain the same pressure from the other end. Wickets were hard to come by, and containment should have been the priority.

Instead, the pacers sprayed the ball all over for the batsmen to make an easy meal of them.

In a refreshing departure from familiar collapses, Indian lower-order put up an admirable resistance to raise 183 runs for the last four wickets. Virat Kohli (147, 314m, 230b, 20x4) could add only seven more runs to his overnight total when he tamely flicked Ryan Harris to Rogers at mid-on.

Unlike on earlier occasions when the Indian innings had keeled over once the lower-order had been exposed, Wriddhiman Saha (35, 133m, 96b, 3x4), Ashwin (50, 169m, 111b, 6x4) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (30, 91m, 75b, 5x4) defied the trend and put the Australians on the field for a longer period than they would have liked to.

The third umpire’s decision to give Bhuvneshwar caught off a bump ball, however, resulted in a swift end to the visitors’ innings.

The right-hander’s attempted drive took the outside edge of the bottom of the bat and there was enough evidence to suggest that the ball had gone off the ground. But despite reviewing the replays several times, Simon Fry decided to press the out button. Once Bhuvneshwar was gone India lost their last three wickets for 27 runs conceding a 97-run lead. 
    
In all likelihood, Smith will declare at the overnight score, tempting India to go for the target and knowing Kohli’s mindset, the final day may just have a cracking contest in store.
DH News Service  

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